Neuromodulation is a fascinating science that has far-reaching implications for health. Although it sounds like something from a science fiction movie, neuromodulation is used by people to speed up recovery times after physical activities, improve their sleep, and more.
Neuromodulation can be used to speed up recovery time and healing from injury.
The electrical stimulation can be used to help chronic pain conditions.
Neurostimulation can help regulate sleep patterns due to the pan-reducing properties of the practice.
Have you ever heard of the Ironman competition? It's an intensive long-distance triathlon. While most of us would need to take many breaks to sleep during such stressful exertion, some don't. Many of these top athletes use neuromodulation to heal quicker and unlock their almost superhuman performance qualities.
What is neuromodulation?
Neuromodulation is the alteration of nerve activity through the targeted delivery of a trigger, such as electrical stimulation or chemical agents, to specific neurological sites in the body.
Neuromodulation is approved by the FDA and has been used in practice for more than 25 years.
You can be treated with neuromodulation either by having an implant, which involves surgery, or via a non-invasive method.
Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) is a non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS) technique that uses a low-intensity direct current to modulate the membrane potential of neurons in the cerebral cortex. There is no surgical procedure involved, just two electrodes placed on the scalp.
Different types of neuromodulation
Neuromodulation can be applied through different techniques and modalities. The treatment can be non-invasive. However, there are some implantable devices (battery-powered pulse generators or IPGs and electrical leads) that can stimulate certain nerves in your body. These include the following:
- Spinal cord stimulators. It's a relatively new technology that can help manage chronic pain when the cause cannot be removed, or the injury cannot be repaired;
- Deep brain stimulators. These electrodes produce electrical impulses that regulate abnormal impulses. Or the electrical impulses can affect specific cells and chemicals within the brain. Deep brain stimulators are used to help with diseases like Parkinson's disease, essential tremors, dystonia, epilepsy, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
As the market for neuromodulation is expanding, more and more non-invasive devices are being made available for the public. However, keep in mind that these treatments should only be administered by a trained physician who is specialized in this kind of care.
What is neuromodulation used for?
There are multiple benefits that neuromodulation can bring. It's usually used for the following reasons:
- Reduce pain. Chronic pain sufferers have reported an improvement in their symptoms after having regular sessions using neurostimulation devices;
- Soothe neurological symptoms. Studies have shown positive outcomes for those suffering with complex neuropsychiatric conditions linked with circuit based dysfunction of brain networks;
- Improve sleep quality. In a recent study, the use of neurostimulation devices was proved to be beneficial for young adults with Autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Rates of anxiety decreased and the participants reported better sleep quality;
- Better muscle recovery. Many athletes use neuromodulation to speed up their recovery times. This has led to a new phrase, called neuro-doping.
What is neuro-doping and is it legal?
Neuro-doping is a term used to describe direct interventions into the brain that potentially could enhance people’s overall performance. Because neuromodulation enables quicker learning, improved muscular strength, and enhanced coordination, it's become a favorite amongst amateur and professional athletes alike.
Yes, neuro-doping is legal, because the Anti-Doping Association can't do anything about it yet. It doesn't go beyond the limits of official doping.
The relation between neuromodulation and sleep?
Neuromodulation might help your body recharge while you sleep. So who is the target audience that could benefit from it?
Patients who live in pain
Neuromodulation improves the quality of life for patients who live in pain and have neurological symptoms. Neuromodulation eases or lessens pain without putting patients into a drug fog.
People with anxiety and sleep problems
Vagus nerve stimulators are a part of neuromodulation. This simple, non-invasive device that stimulates your vagus nerve can help you with a lot of health issues, like stress, anxiety, pains, and sleep problems.
There is an unquestionable link between sleep and pain, but evidence suggests that sleep's effect on pain may be even more potent than we think. People who suffer from chronic pain know firsthand how difficult it can be to get a good night's sleep. Many of these individuals report substandard sleep quality, and one in four people with chronic pain also have a sleep disorder.
Some statistics point out that pain costs adults around 51.5 minutes of sleep every night. And back pain is the most common ailment among pain-somniacs, accounting for 56.2% of adults who lost sleep to pain.
Neuromodulation is being used to help with various pains associated with poor sleep quality.
Sleep and pain seem to have a bidirectional connection. For instance, many people report their painful symptoms are relatively relieved after a better night's sleep. For those living with chronic pain, putting rest first may be a key component in recovery.
People suffering from various conditions
It is also a great alternative to help alleviate symptoms from issues such as depression, epilepsy, tinnitus, chronic pain, Parkinson's disease, and migraine.
Whether you are an athlete who wants to improve your performance or someone who suffers from chronic pain and related sleep problems, you could consider neuromodulation. With more non-invasive products now available and fast-moving technological improvements, a neuromodulating treatment could be beneficial.